Women beating breast cancer

Women beating breast cancer.

I really thought it was nothing and it could have floored me when they told me it was breast cancer.

This article was written by Cathy O’Leary and published in the West Australian on 08 March 2018.

Report shows WA survival rates best in world breast cancer but their chances of surviving have dramatically improved, with almost 100 per cent of those in the earliest stage now beating the disease.

Figures from a special report by WA’s Cancer Registry, tracking survival rates since 1985, show 92 per cent of women who develop breast cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.

Early detection and better cancer treatments are being credited for the remarkable improvement in the survival rate, which was 74 per cent in the late 1980s.

The report shows women aged 40 to 64 have the best chances of surviving for five years compared with younger and older age groups. While only one-third of women with the most advanced stage are alive after five years, women with stage 1 —the most common form — now have a survival rate of 99 per cent. Nationally, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85 — about 16,000 a year.

Cancer Council WA director of education and research Terry Slevin said the new figures showed a stark improvement in surviving breast cancer in WA since the late 1980s.

“This data suggests outcomes from WA remain among the best results recorded anywhere internationally,” he said.

“We don’t want to give the impression that it’s all solved because breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women and sadly still the second-most common cause of cancer deaths in women in WA.

“But by the same token, all the efforts that have been put in have come together where it really counts, in these survival numbers.”

Mr Slevin said women should still try to prevent breast cancer by being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing alcohol.

They were also urged to have regular mammograms and report lumps or abnormalities to their GP. Health Minister Roger Cook said that while the 12,000 new cases of cancer in WA each year were alarming, the increase in survival rates, particularly for breast cancer, was a testament to the State’s health services and staff.

The State Government was supporting the Cancer Council’s Find Cancer Early campaign and the Future Health Research and Innovation Fund which would drive a cancer research plan for the next decade.

The survival trend for breast cancer is encouraging for Lesmurdie mother-of-two Priscilla Powell, one of the 1800 WA women diagnosed each year.

The 42-year-old music teacher has a very good prognosis after being treated for early stage disease.

She went to the doctor at her husband’s insistence last October after noticing changes in one of her breasts.

“Because it was found so early, my cancer had never formed an actual tumour so I feel very fortunate it was picked up when it was,” Mrs Powell said.

“I really thought it was nothing and it could have floored me when they told me it was breast cancer.”

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Photo credit: Pablo Heimplatz